Having just had its world premiere at North Carolina's Nevermore Film Festival, writer/director John Portanova's Valley of the Sasquatch is a rare winner amongst that beloved sub-genre of Bigfoot flicks, a specialty niche' within the realm of horror/monster/B-movie type flicks that seems to rise to the indie surface every few years.
The film centers around a father, Roger (Jason Vail), and his son, Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte), who lose their home after a devastating tragedy and are forced to take up residence in an old family cabin. The father and son try, but mostly fail, to find common ground during their transition to this new way of living and matters aren't helped when two of Roger's old friends (played by David Saucedo and D'Angelo Midili) arrive for a weekend of hunting. With tensions flaring, the quartet is joined by, you guessed it, a tribe of Sasquatch determined to protect their land along with a wounded hunter (played by indie horror icon Bill Oberst, Jr.).
Valley of the Sasquatch starts off just a tad slow, though it's actually rather refreshing because Portanova is giving us a chance to get to know Roger, Michael, and the rest of the characters involved in the story. While it doesn't quite always work in presentation, it ultimately helps the film tremendously when the final third comes around and the action really picks up pace.
Valley of the Sasquatch, which has also already been selected to screen at the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival in May, is put together by the production folks at The October People, the same team responsible for the likes of Sader Ridge and The Device. However, it is the first feature-length directorial effort for Portanova and it's a promising debut from the producer/writer/director.
While I'm always a touch hesitant to give the highest praise to a supporting character, the simple truth is that Bill Oberst Jr. truly shines as Bauman, a hunter wounded while being held captive by our Sasquatch tribe yet who manages to escape. Oberst has acted in enough similar indie projects that he unquestionably understands the energy and vibe needed here, and boy does he nail it to perfect. He gives the film an underlying intensity that it really needs, while he also adds an authenticity that keeps you practically hypnotized by his performance. Furthermore, I'd have no problem saying that he elevated everyone around him in the process.
This is not to say that the rest of the cast is weak. They're not. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, in particular, radiates an emotional honesty that helps the film move forward and Portanova has done a nice job of developing a character we buy into. Jason Vail shines as the father, occasionally an a**hole but an a**hole who seems to be struggling with his life's downward spiral. David Saucedo and D'Angelo Midili do a nice job in supporting roles, with Saucedo seemingly having the most fun of all playing a character a little more comfortable with his questionable choices.
Jon Bash's original music is both a little bit hyped and I'd dare say a bit of a nod to old-school Sasquatch type films of the past. Jeremy Berg's lensing is occasionally challenged by lighting issues, a common hindrance for low-budget indie cinema, but he also does a terrific job of capturing both the tension between characters and the film's action sequences. Kudos should be given, as well, to the film's effects teams for taking a low budget and basically saying "Screw that!' and having a lot of fun with it. If you're a fan of Sasquatch films, then you'll definitely like where Portanova and his cast/crew have taken the film.
For more information on Valley of the Sasquatch, visit the film's website linked to in the credits. If you get a chance, definitely check it out on the film fest circuit where it will most likely find a home among the underground, ultra-indie, and horror fests.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic